Showing posts from 2014

On the need for an open source smartphone

Threatpost is reporting on Palo Alto Networks' discovery of a backdoor on an Android phone sold primarily in the Chinese and Taiwan markets that allows the vendor (and ostensibly anyone approved by or who impersonates the vendor) to take over your phone.

Whether there is any hyperbole in this or not, it's clear that what they describe could very easily be done. And it thus underscores why we need a fully open source smartphone platform that puts the user in control. A solution that's effectively open only for vendors or leaves the last mile closed (i.e., drivers) just isn't good enough.

Once we have the software solved, we can move on to building hardware that's open in the critical areas. But let's start with the easier to solve software problem. With just the smallest help from manufacturers, we could have this problem solved yesterday.

Threatpost (via Slashdot)

Here to stay?

As part of my effort to diversify my online data siloing, I've been looking for an alternative to Google Maps/Navigation on my phone. I've slogged through a lot of FOSS and proprietary offerings, but all have had various inadequacies that left me lusting for the latest from Google.

Then today I learned that the part of Nokia that wasn't sold to Microsoft released a beta of their Here mapnav app for Android. So far it has been quite good. All the features I want, some that I didn't know I wanted but am happy to have, and a reasonably usable if less than stunningly attractive UI. I only hope their monetization plans don't gut the app after it comes out of beta.

Helpful links:
Service termsPrivacy policyAccount and privacy


I tried a number of things to get a speedy and easy-to-use WebDAV setup and finally settled on using the setup described in Kasun's Tech Blog's Mounting a WebDAV directory in Linux (Ubuntu).

I deviated from the above by leaving /etc/davfs2/davfs2.conf as it is and instead edited the conf file at ~/.davfs2 that magically showed up. I also found a secrets file there where I added credentials. I suspect these were added after the first access I performed, that is, after I did a $ mount . in the mount directory.

crontab -r

crontab -r is sooo close to crontab -e — exactly one adjacent key to be precise.

And crontab files are stored in /var/spool/cron/crontabs rather than inside the (backed up) /home/mithat directory?


New laptop time

Alas, I think I need to upgrade from my 5+ year old current laptop. I need a dual boot system (with Windows) for teaching, so this means I will need to confront UEFI madness and a whole new slew of hardware compatibility foo--and maybe even a distribution change to one that has solid support for UEFI installs.

Fun times ahead.

Changing DNS nameservers in aptosid + wpa_gui

This is a corner-case quickie.

I use the Debian-sid derivative aptosid as my main OS along with the blessed-by-aptosid wpa_gui for wlan management. There are reasons I prefer wpa_gui to the aptosid default Ceni--but this is the subject for another post, perhaps.

Unlike other GUI wlan management tools such as wicd or Network Manager, wpa_gui doesn't provide an obvious way to change your DNS nameserver(s). I ran into this problem recently when I was in filter-happy Turkey and the modem+router I bought there had firmware in which the DNS nameserver setting was disabled.

I solved the problem for my machine by editing /etc/dhcp/dhclient.conf. I decommented the line:
#prepend domain-name-servers; and then changed to a comma-separated list of the desired DNS servers, e.g.:
prepend domain-name-servers,; (for OpenDNS).

Reboot, and a
$ dig showed that it worked.

I can't say it'll work on every machine, but it worked for me.

The first Tizen phone

TechCrunch, Ars Technica, Gizmodo, and The Verge today have sizable articles discussing the the first Tizen-powered phone to hit the market: the Samsung Z.

The range of tone and angles in the articles is fascinating. They also aptly demonstrate my third law of the Internet: For every opinion, there is an equal and opposite opinion. For example, The Verge says, "The phone will have a major disadvantage right out of the gate--[it] won't have access to the vast ecosystem of Android apps that has been built up over recent years." But TechCrunch reports, "The Z will include access to a Tizen app store, which means buyers can expect a few thousand native apps. [The] Open Mobile application compatibility later [sic] will enable the handset to run Android apps too."

I wasn't expecting anyone would actually ever bring a Tizen-powered phone to market, so I haven't been following development of this open-source mobile OS. But I will now be doing so and am wishing …